Friday, June 1, 2018

Bi-Weekly Interview #13 - Miranda Meeks

As an artist, it seems like the landscape is ever-changing from simply the tools, to the aesthetic. I intend to be an artist that never wants to stop learning, and as such, I find more and more interesting artists every day. Each artist has a unique insight and point of view, no matter the experience level. New views help open my mind and teach me there are many ways to utilize my skills and I hope that sharing our stories will help others in the same way. I believe there are many paths on an artistic journey, and each interview will help to show the stories of the artists that tread them.

Today we'll be interviewing Miranda Meeks.

Kaminski: This question is typically the same to start to get a feel for you and your art in general, but: tell me a little about yourself. What led you to the path of the artist? Has it been something you've always been interested in or did the desire to leap into the artistic fray come later?

Meeks: I’ve always wanted to be an artist. I was constantly drawing when I was little. It’s just something I’ve always had a strong desire for. I decided to major in it at school and that’s when it became a concrete goal and what started me down this career path.

Kaminski: Interesting! Lately there seems to be a push away from the traditional path of art school and things, so it's pretty cool to see you venture through university.

I know that schooling definitely had an effect on my style and things and it makes me wonder if the same thing might've happened to you as well. I have to ask, what ultimately led to your decision to pursue dark fantasy, potentially even horror, in particular? Is that a genre that you've always enjoyed or did you find your love for it come along after a certain amount of time battling the canvas? Ultimately - what created Miranda's voice?

I’m inspired by Tim BurtonAlfred Hitchcock, movies and books that have that underlying vein of darkness or creepiness. At the same time, I do not want any viewer to feel deeply unsettled or disturbed when looking at my art, so it’s never a prominent theme. 
Meeks: Pursuing an undertone of darkness wasn't actually done on purpose, at least in the beginning. Looking back, I was always attracted to darker things. I loved snakes and monsters when I was younger. I’m inspired by Tim Burton, Alfred Hitchcock, movies and books that have that underlying vein of darkness or creepiness. At the same time, I do not want any viewer to feel deeply unsettled or disturbed when looking at my art, so it’s never a prominent theme. I love balancing it with aspects of beauty and ethereality. My goal is for a viewer to feel drawn to the image to discover the different layers of mystery, not to feel overwhelmed with negative feelings.

Kaminski: I also see that you have some formal education in the arts. Can you tell us a little about what your experience in art school was? Were there any huge pivotal moments that happened during your stint that still stick with you to this day?

Meeks: I went to Brigham Young University, with an emphasis in illustration. I learned so much during my time there. The typography class and the figure drawing class had a huge impact on my artistic perspective. I learned about the importance of presentation and good design. I also learned a lot during my editorial illustration and digital painting 2 courses; mostly about the process of thinking critically and metaphorically with your work. My time at BYU was an essential part of who I am today and I am very grateful for the opportunity I had to learn there. I don’t think that art school is essential for every artist, but I definitely think it was for me.

Kaminski: I can certainly relate to the art school necessity. I might've evolved as an artist without it, but I can definitely say that it would have been a much longer process. Art school, if nothing else, taught me temperance and discipline. Deadlines are constantly thrown at you from all directions while in art school, so if you can't meet a deadline after-the-fact, you definitely did school wrong!

When you first started pursuing art as more than a hobby, what kinds of tactics did you use to initially find work? Do you have any suggestions to throw at potential readers about how to maintain clients?

Meeks: When I first started pursuing freelance, I emailed art directors a few times and sent out one postcard. Emails worked while the postcard didn't. I feel that postcards CAN work if you are consistent with them, without being pushy. Honestly, I wholeheartedly believe that the best tactic to get work is to keep making new work and putting it out there for the world to see. Doing this persistently not only improves your craft, but is a form of advertising in and of itself. Pretty soon, the art directors are coming to you, and you're getting dream clients and dream jobs. It's definitely not a short-term solution, but it's worked wonderfully for the long haul.

Kaminski: It's so interesting that we tried some of the same tactics, especially initially. Related to getting into the the field: What's some advice you can give to working in the book cover industry? What is it like working with larger clients such as TOR and Subterranean Press, among many others?

Meeks: My advice for getting into book covers is based on two things: one, actually go to a bookstore and look at all the covers. Take pictures of the ones you really like. This is a great way to make sure your art is relevant for covers, as well as gaining inspiration into ways you can improve your craft. Another thing is when you make personal pieces, practice creating them as if they were book covers, i.e. format them to the standard 6:9 ratio, leave some space for type at the top or bottom, etc. This will train your brain to think about how to solve these unique design problems that come with covers.

My advice for getting into book covers is based on two things: one, actually go to a bookstore and look at all the covers. 

As for working with larger clients, it's an absolute dream. The art directors are wonderful at communicating, and I try and make their job easy by presenting my ideas and the reasoning behind them, ultimately with the understanding that they're the client and it's my job to make them look good. The larger publishers really are some of my favorites clients.

Kaminski: WOW! You're in both Spectrum (multiple times) and you've been nominated for a Chesley! How very prolific! Do you have any advice on getting into either of those publications? Was it easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy ... or difficult-difficult-lemon-difficult?

(WIP - left, FINAL - right)

Meeks: Haha, I definitely would say it's difficult-difficult-lemon-difficult! I feel incredibly fortunate for both my Spectrum entries and the Chesley nominations. It feels like largely, each situation was out of my hands. Luckily, my work tends to fit the Spectrum "look" pretty ideally, I think that's been a major factor. I haven't ever catered my portfolio to design it to fit, it just so happens that it does, if that makes sense. So my biggest actionable advice would be that if you feel like your work can fit within that aesthetic, then try submitting a few pieces each year. Look through the pages and see what kind of images have been accepted. Try to be objective about your work, but give it a shot and submit, since you'll never know unless you submit them in the first place.

Kaminski: Yeah! I know what you mean, catering your portfolio is always a daunting task. And then there's the fear of, 'what if I submitted the wrong pieces', or even 'what if I submitted too many, and one of them is the disqualifying factor'. It can be a very stressful experience to submit to anything, annual and jobs, alike. Speaking of submissions, do you do conventions or gallery shows? And if so - with either - what kinds of experiences have you had? Do you have any horror or absolute joy stories related to either?

Meeks: I have done one convention and multiple group gallery shows. Being last year was my first convention, I had a lot of upfront expenses, including stocking prints, banners, tablecloths, etc. Fortunately, I don't have any horror stories for my experience at the convention, though someone did accidentally leave their wallet at my table and I was stressed the whole time until he came back for it, haha. It was three days of exhaustion but also of absolute joy, of being able to connect with other people who appreciated the stories I tell through my work. For galleries, the main expense is physical paint, canvas, and framing and shipping the piece to the gallery. I will never forget the first time one of my paintings sold, that felt amazing.

Kaminski: I can 100% relate to conventions being an absolute joy. Most people gauge their joy on merely how much money is made from the convention. SURE you have to keep track of expenses, but everyone should always remember that they're like working vacations. You get to get out of the studio and actually experience people, places, things. It's exhausting, but at the same time, an absolute joy, to me at least.

With your first convention under your belt, I bet you're itching to do more. Speaking of the future, what goals do you have set for yourself in the immediate? And long term?

Meeks: My goals for the short-term include refining my portfolio and possibly trying out more conventions as a way to supplement my income. Long term, I would love to make an art book at some point, though I am only fleshing out the details currently, I'm really excited about it and can't wait to make my ideas come to fruition.

Kaminski: OMG! You have to make an art book! I adore art books of all kinds. It's probably a bit of a terrible addiction I have, buying and pouring over art books.

And finally, What's the best piece of advice you can give to fellow artists OR what's the best piece you've received thus far?

[...] it's OK to not have everything in your portfolio. 

Meeks: My best piece of advice I've received was that it's OK to not have everything in your portfolio. It took an enormous weight off my shoulders, realizing that I don't HAVE to have a creature design, or an environment, or robots or whatever, in my portfolio. It's important to practice and continue to hone your skills, but if you dread the idea of drawing crowds, there's nothing that says you HAVE to put a crowd scene on your website. That way, you only get to work on images you love. I know some artists are happy drawing whatever, but for me, my happiness is very contingent upon subject matter and whether or not I find that subject matter appealing, so this advice has always really resonated with me.

Kaminski: THANKS for being a part of the interview series, Miranda! I have to say, I think your work is incredible, and I can’t wait to see what you come up with next!


Thank you all for reading, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Miranda Meeks.
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You can view this interview, and many more, HERE.

You can find view more of Miranda's work at her WEBSITE:
If you would like to be a part of my interview series, simply fill out the contact form HERE and I'll get back with you as soon as possible!



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